I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Call to Action Flashback: In House Usage...It Counts!

Today I wanted to go back to a Call to Action post from 2016 because it is a topic I still bring up all of the time. It is also a topic that addresses our main mission as public libraries-- being a vital resource for ALL in our community whether their usage generates stats for us or not. It is also a post about how we don't get to assign a hierarchy to which users are more important than others. All users and how they chose to use our buildings and collections are of equal importance because it is not about us, it is about them....the public.

Unfortunately I have had to reinforce this message too often recently. Sigh. So I think it doesn't hurt to give us all a reminder.

Here is the direct link to the original. Also click here for the Call to Action archive.

MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action-- In House Usage...It Counts!

For today’s Call to Action I want to remind everyone that when we are doing collection development and gathering data on materials and their usage, we cannot forget about those who use our collection inside our buildings but never check any materials out.

In-house usage of a library item is a use of that library item. It is equivalent to a check out even though we cannot capture it in our circulation statistics. More importantly, the person using that item is an equal patron to someone who checks it out and takes it home. I see way too many library workers who think that someone who uses an item in their buildings is a lower level of patron than someone who takes the item home.  This way of thinking needs to stop-- IMMEDIATELY.

Many of the reasons people use our collections in-house only are socioeconomically based. It is part of the larger problem of equal access for all in this country in general.  So common reasons are homelessness and where I used to work, undocumented immigrants. I always reminded people without legal status who used the library that we don’t check your immigration status nor do we care. But since we don’t check it, we cannot give any information to the authorities either.  All we check is that you live in our community. In fact, in order to get more cards in our citizens' hands we started automatically signing kids up at back to school events. Then the whole family could use the card.

But there are also times when someone who has a card may not want to check out and item and bring it home.  The example someone gave me right when I started as a librarian was perfect. What if you were in an abusive marriage and you wanted to look up information about getting a divorce? You couldn’t use the home computer nor would you want to check out books on your card or bring them home.

And of course, questioning teens, and I don’t just mean LGBTQ issues only.  Many teens don’t feel safe to express themselves or pursue their interests in their homes for a variety of reasons. The library is a safe space and a haven for these kids.

These examples are just tips of the iceberg. Her are some thoughts on how these in-house usage situations may manifest themselves to you, the library worker.

Have you ever been in the stacks and seen a book with a bookmark sticking out? Your first thought is to pull it out, right? But, what if that bookmark is from someone using the item in-house who doesn’t want to lose his place?  True story-- if you pull the bookmark out because it doesn’t belong there, well, just you wait because that same book is going to go missing next. Often it will be purposely mis-shelved or tucked in a corner so that patron knows where it is.  In the meantime, it is lost to everyone.  So just leave the bookmark in. How hard is that? You are not going to explode because of it. Plus you are probably helping someone with much larger issues have something go right in their life.

We need to get over ourselves and let people use the collections in house. Encourage it even. If that means there are some bookmarks sticking out of our books, so what? As long as the materials are on the shelf and those who need and/or want them can access them, then as I see it, everyone wins!

We also had a few people who came to use the computers to watch DVDs. They didn’t check the DVDs out while they were using them in the library, but they would let the desk staff know they had it in case someone was looking for the item while they were using it.

Oh, and if someone comes in and wants to check a movie out while someone is using it on a computer in-house, the person with the library card DOES NOT take precedence over the person currently using it in-house. I have seen that happen at libraries and it makes me very angry. Those with cards DO NOT come before those without, despite what your boss might have told you. Our materials are for everyone.

Now collecting data on in-house usage is not easy, but I have a few ideas that help, are participatory, and fun:

  • The Awesome Box-- Not my idea.  It’s from Harvard. Here is a link to more information, but basically, you put out a box and have patrons put things they think are “Awesome” in the box. The item doesn’t have to have been checked out to go in the box.  You can get your patrons to tell you what they like most about your collections this way-- with or without a library card. 
  • Patron Filled Displays, or as I like to tell people to explain them to their not convinced bosses-- “Makerspace" Displays. They are exactly like they sound. Put up an empty display shelf, give it a title, and ask patrons to fill it using your circulating collection. Now, your tech services people may fein a heart attack because the books aren’t where they are supposed to be, but again, no one is going to die. They are just books people. [On a side note, the number of times I had to say this to coworkers at my library was surprisingly high.] If everyone knows this makerspace display is happening, and then someone can’t find an item where it is supposed to be,  they can....gasp...check the display.  I know, it’s tough putting the patron first. *Becky shakes her head*

Here are some less “radical” ways to to see what people are using but not checking out:

  • Where are your messiest, most out of order shelves? Those areas are probably being used in house. The patrons will use the books and put them back themselves. Also, since pages aren’t necessarily going there to put these materials away [because they weren’t checked out], the shelves get even messier.
  • What materials do you find on tables, abandoned in strange places, with some kind of non-library marking on it, etc....? Those are being used in-house. People are hiding them and/or marking them so they can find them again-- without using traditional methods.
  • Put out huge, clearly marked comment boxes which ask people to tell you what kinds of items they want to see in the collection.
This post is obviously just an overview of the entire in-house usage issue, but my goal with these Call to Action posts is to alert you to concerns that people either simply aren’t aware of or have become complacent about. I hope everyone reading this will at least be more compassionate about and cognizant of in-house usage

Please share your in-house usage stories, ideas, and successes in the comments. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

ARRT Romance Program and Genre Study Updates-- Join Us In Person Or Follow Along Online

Click here to register
ARRT recently announced the first program of 2019:
Join us Tuesday, March 19, at 2 pm, for Acquiring the Duke: The Current State of Romance in Publishing and Libraries. The event takes place at Indian Prairie Public Library (Darien).  
Romance tends to be underestimated in the shuffle of collection development, readers’ advisory, and publishing–despite comprising 23% of the US fiction market. We are bringing all aspects to the forefront with our expert panel of editors, reviewers, and authors to discuss trends in romance, traditional and self-publishing, review sources, and much more. 
  • Mary Altman, Editor at Sourcebooks Casablanca
  • Bobbi Dumas, freelance writer and book reviewer for several mainstream publications including Kirkus and NPR
  • Jennifer Prokop, book reviewer and creator of Jen Reads Romance
  • Amy Sandas, author
  • Melonie Johnson, author
  • Suleikha Snyder, author
  • Panel Moderator: Susan Maguire, Senior Editor for Collection Management and Library Outreach at Booklist
Registration is now open. Member: $20Nonmember: $25Register here
This is an extremely well rounded program that will cover all areas of the genre, and it is moderated by my editor Susan [Woot!].

I am trying to figure out if I can make this panel as I am also supposed to be in Peoria that evening for dinner, but I would guess that many of you reading this can join us. Seriously, it is a great deal.

Also, this is the perfect time to remind everyone that it is also time to renew your ARRT membership. Membership costs $15 but as you can see above, it gives you at least $5 off each of our programs. Being a member literally pays for itself if you attend all 3 of our programs during the year.

While you never need to be a member to come to our programs, you do need to be a member to attend our Genre Study and Book Club Study in person. Speaking of the Genre Study, we have just begun year 2 of the the 2 year Romance Genre Study. In fact, we are having this Romance Program to enhance the Genre Study for those who have been attending AND have a Romance event for those who aren't members or who couldn't make the Genre Study meetings.

But, while you have to be a member to participate in the live Genre Study meetings, anyone can see [and even use for their own genre studies] our schedule, agendas, and notes. I have been unable to attend the Romance Genre Study meetings myself, but have been keeping up with the notes here and have learned quite a bit.

I hope you can find some time to attend our Romance Program or look at the Genre Study notes. Whether you are a romance expert or novice, there is something here for every library worker to use to help patrons better.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Library Reads: March 2019

Yay, It's Library Reads Day and this month's list has one of my current top contenders for best of 2019 lists-- THE BIRD KING by G. Willow Wilson. I read this back in December and had to languish alone in my absolute LOVE of this book with no one to talk to about its near perfection. I am so glad others have read it now and also loved it. And, soon the whole world can experience it.

Also, I am very excited that there are many books on the list this month that I would never have known about without-- I'm looking at you PROFESSOR CHANDRA FOLLOWS HIS BLISS. [leaves new blog post tab to place hold-- okay, I'm back.]

And finally, before I get to my standard Library Reads Day preamble and post, I also wanted to comment on how well the Hall of Fame is working out. Again, two titles that would not have made the list are there because of the Hall of Fame. The entire point of the Library Reads list is to show that library workers can identify and then promote excellent titles that many people would not know about without our great work. It is for us to flex our muscles and show our power to sell books. When we remove uber popular authors from the equation, we increase visibility of other great titles and give them a boost. Plus, the Hall of Fame page is becoming its own great resource of sure bets.

But even more importantly, as I predicted, the Hall of Fame has also allowed more diverse authors to be included on the list. When we remove something that has been there 2x before, we are allowing more voices "to the table." And when you include more voices, diversity should follow. I'm glad to see that has happened.

But now, on to the list.....


Today is Library Reads day and that means three things here on RA for All:
  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
    So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books.

    Also, please remember to click here for my Library Reads 101 recap for everything you need to know about how to participate. And click here to see a database of eligible diverse titles sorted by month. 

    March 2019 LibraryReads

    Don’t miss the March 2019 Hall of Fame Winners! Scroll down or visit the Hall of Fame page.

    My Lovely Wife

    by Samantha Downing

    Published: 3/26/2019 by Berkley
    ISBN: 9780451491725
    “An incredible, dark, twisty psychological thriller with two of the most seemingly normal but disturbingly depraved people you will read about in fiction. This brilliant debut needs to be at the top of your must-read list. For readers who like taut suspense and works by Gillian Flynn, B.A. Paris, and Mary Kubica.”
    Rachel Reeves, Weatherford Public Library, Weatherford, TX 
    NoveList Read-alike: Behind Her Eyes / Sarah Pinborough

    Beautiful Bad

    by Annie Ward

    Published: 3/5/2019 by Park Row
    ISBN: 9780778369103
    “Maddie the innocent travel writer and Jo the wild child are living quite the life abroad when Ian crosses their path and changes both their lives permanently. Moving backward and forward in time, the narrative slowly reveals hidden truths. For fans of Paula Hawkins and Ruth Ware.”
    Selena Swink, Lake Public Library, Lake, MS 
    Novelist Read-alike: Before I Go to Sleep / S.J. Watson

    The Bird King

    by G. Willow Wilson

    Published: 3/12/2019 by Grove Press
    ISBN: 9780802129031
    “Lush and wonderful language, characters, and worldbuilding make this an enjoyable read for fans of historical fantasy. The relationship between concubine Fatima and mapmaker Hassan is multifaceted and compelling. A good choice for readers who liked Uprooted and City of Brass.”
    Nora Walsh, Princeton Public Library, Princeton, NJ
    NoveList Read-alike: The Lions of Al-Rassan / Guy Gavriel Kay

    A Dangerous Collaboration

    by Deanna Raybourn

    Published: 3/12/2019 by Berkley
    ISBN: 9780451490711
    “In this fine addition to the series, Veronica Speedwell joins Stoker and his brother on an island off the British coast, attempting to solve a years-old mystery about the disappearance of a young woman on her wedding day. Recommended for fans of historical Victorian fiction, murder mysteries, and lepidoptery.”
    Jill McKinney, Gunnison County Library, Gunnison, CO
    NoveList Read-alike: Lady Travelers Guide series / Victoria Alexander

    The Last Woman in the Forest

    by Diane Les Becquets

    Published: 3/5/2019 by Berkley
    ISBN: 9780399587047
    “A suspenseful, surprising story that begins with every woman’s worst nightmare–a breakdown on a lonely road in the middle of the night and a bad feeling about the handsome guy who stops to help. This kick-in-the-gut start leads to a more thoughtful mystery with a big twist. Recommended for fans of Lee Child.”
    Patricia Uttaro, Monroe County Library System, Monroe, NY 
    NoveList Read-alike: The Wild Inside / Christine Carbo

    The Last Year of the War

    by Susan Meissner

    Published: 3/19/2019 by Berkley
    ISBN: 9780451492159
    “The story of two teenage girls who forge a life long friendship in an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas. For fans of historical fiction and readers who enjoy stories about immigration experiences and life during wartime.”
    Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX 
    NoveList Read-alike: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet / Jamie Ford

    The Library of Lost and Found

    by Phaedra Patrick

    Published: 3/26/2019 by Park Row
    ISBN: 9780778369356
    “Martha Storm volunteers at the local library and has a tendency to help others over taking care of herself. One day she receives a mysterious book from the grandmother she believed dead and begins digging into her family’s past. Who doesn’t love a book about books? For fans of Elizabeth Berg and Fredrik Backman.”
    Shari Suarez, Genesee District Library, Genesee, MI 
    NoveList Read-alike: The Bookshop on the Corner / Jenny Colgan

    Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss: A Novel

    by Rajeev Balasubramanyam

    Published: 3/26/2019 by The Dial Press
    ISBN: 9780525511380
    When Chandra fails to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, again, then suffers a heart attack, he decides to make changes in his life. A humorous journey of self-discovery similar to Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.”
    Lora Bruggeman, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL
    NoveList Read-alike: This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! / Jonathan Evison


    by Candice Carty-Williams

    Published: 3/19/2019 by Gallery/Scout Press
    ISBN: 9781501196010
    “Queenie, a 25-year-old British-Jamaican woman, struggles to have a sense of purpose after being dumped by her white boyfriend. This humorous and timely debut sheds light on society’s fetishization of black women and its impact on family, relationships and mental health.”
    Molly Riportella, Westwood Public Library, Westwood, MA 
    NoveList Read-alike: New People / Danzy Senna

    The River: A Novel

    by Peter Heller

    Published: 3/5/2019 by Knopf
    ISBN: 9780525521877
    “A love letter to the great outdoors. Both adventure story and elegant nature writing. Two college students on a canoe trip face a wildfire, white-water rapids, and two mysterious strangers. For fans of Tim Johnston and Dave Eggers.”
    Sara Kennedy, Delaware County District Library, Delaware, OH 
    NoveList Read-alike: The River at Night / Erica Ferencik

    Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel

    by Taylor Jenkins Reid

    Published: 3/5/2019 by Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 9781524798628
    “Like the best episodes of Behind the Music, this chronicle of the rise and fall of a fictional ’70s rock group is impossible to resist. You’ll be tempted to look up the band’s hits, only to disappointedly remember that they don’t exist. A great rock ’n’ roll ride for readers.”
    Becky Bowen, Kenton County Public Library, Erlanger, KY
    A Visit From the Goon Squad / Jennifer Egan
    Gold Dust Woman The Biography of Stevie Nicks / Stephen Davis
    The Gangster of Love / Jessica Hagedorn
    Juliet, Naked / Nick Hornby

    The Stranger Diaries

    by Elly Griffiths

    Published: 3/5/2019
    by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    ISBN: 9781328577856
    “The author of the Ruth Galloway novels pens a chilling, atmospheric standalone. After a colleague is found dead, English teacher Claire Cassidy discovers messages from the murderer in her own private journal. Perfect for fans of both classic gothic horror and contemporary murder mysteries.”
    Dawn Terrizzi, Denton Public Library, Denton, TX
    The Magpie Murders / Anthony Horowitz
    The Ghost Writer / John Harwood
    The Broken Teaglass / Emily Arsenault
    The Seduction of Water / Carol Goodman

    Thursday, February 14, 2019

    Announcing the Summer Scares Reading List

    Today is launch day for the first annual Summer Scares reading list. This press release below is being pushed out all over the book world, but it is also just the beginning. 

    It's hard to believe that this all began when Grady Hendrix, J.G. Faherty, and I were sitting around and simply chatting about how we wished that more people read horror. And now, we have a team of librarians, authors, publishers, and libraries already working to make this all happen on a National scale.

    At its most basic, Summer Scares is a list of suggested books for all ages of readers. We have chosen titles that are at least 2 years old, in print, and easily available to purchase for you to add to your collections and even use for book discussions. We also have gone out of our way to choose a range of  titles, from very literary to pulp and all in between. Some are creepy, some tense and atmospheric, and others terrifying. This wide range accurately represents all the horror genre has to offer. We even have an anthology because short stories are a big part of horror too. We have also provided a list that is inclusive because representing all voices is a vital part of the RA work we all do.

    But this program is more than the list and the 9 books. It is a national program to connect horror authors with libraries. It is a program that will make it easy for you, the library worker, to provide horror programming, create displays, and make suggestions. As a committee and through our partners, we will begin pushing out resources, interviews with the selected authors, and lists of even more titles soon. You can also start signing up to be connected with a horror author in your area right now to plan summer book discussions, horror themed programming, and we even have $500 grants available for interested libraries.

    But that is for later. Let's enjoy today. Read on below and visit the HWA’s Libraries web page or my FAQ a resources page for Summer Scares over on the horror blog for all of the details.


    In celebration of National Library Lover’s Day, the Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal, is delighted to announce the first annual Summer Scares Reading List, which includes titles selected by a panel of authors and librarians and is designed to promote horror as a great reading option for all ages, during any time of the year.

    Each year, three titles will be chosen in the Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade categories, and for 2019 they are:

    Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2017)
    My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due (Harper Voyager, 1998)
    Earthworm Gods by Brian Keene (Deadite Press, 2012)

    Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Ember, 2012)
    Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (Speak, 2016)
    Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow (Penguin Random House Publisher Services, 2015)

    Doll Bones Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015)
    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014)
    The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin Young Readers, 2016)

    The goal of the Summer Scares program is to introduce horror titles to school and public library workers in order to help them start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come. Along with the annual list of recommended titles for readers of all ages, the Summer Scares committee will also release themed lists of even more “read-alike” titles for libraries to use when suggesting books to readers this summer and all year long. And, in order to help libraries forge stronger connections between books and readers, the Summer Scares committee will be working with both the recommended list authors and horror authors from all over the country, to provide free programming to libraries. From author visits (both in person and virtual) to book discussions to horror themed events, Summer Scares is focused on connecting horror creators with libraries and readers all year long.

    The Horror Writers Association (HWA) will also be hosting special Library Day programming at its annual StokerCon event, which will be held May 9-12 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Several of the authors from the Summer Scares reading list, as well as the committee members, will be in attendance. Authors and committee members will also be available throughout the year for on-site and/or remote appearances to libraries and schools to promote the Summer Scares program and discuss the use of horror fiction as a tool to increase readership and nurture a love of reading.

    The Summer Scares program committee consists of award-winning author Grady Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, Paperbacks from Hell), Becky Spratford (library consultant, author of The Readers Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd Ed.), Carolyn Ciesla (library director, academic dean, book reviewer), Kiera Parrott (reviews director for Library Journal and School Library Journal), Kelly Jensen (editor, Book Riot, author of [Don’t] Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health), and JG Faherty (HWA Library Program director, author of The Cure and Carnival of Fear). 

    The HWA is a non-profit organization of writers and publishing professionals, and the oldest organization dedicated to the horror/dark fiction genre. One of the HWA’s missions is to foster an appreciation of reading through extensive programming and partnerships with libraries, schools, and literacy-based organizations. 

    For more information about the Summer Scares reading program, including how to obtain promotional materials and schedule events with the authors/committee members, visit the HWA’s Libraries web page (www.horror.org/libraries), Becky Spratford’s Reader’s Advisory Horror Blog RA for All: Horror (http://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/p/summer-scares.html), or the Book Riot, School Library Journal, Library Journal, or United for Libraries websites and social media sites. 

    You can also contact JG Faherty, HWA Library Program Director (libraries [at] horror [dot] org) or Becky Spratford, HWA Secretary (bspratford [at] hotmail [dot] com).

    Wednesday, February 13, 2019

    It's Historical Fiction Day!

    Who knew?

    Book Riot did and they created this awesome list of lists you can use to celebrate. These 10 lists cover a wide range of historical fiction titles with varied settings, encompassing other genres, and including own voices. These are the historical fiction titles you might not have considered on your own; titles you might not have included in your historical fiction displays without the help of a resource. [And remember, you do use resources to do RA, see Rule 7.]

    One of the most important things to remember when working with historical fiction readers is that while they are looking for books set in the past and full of authentic details, they also have many other appeal considerations. Maybe they like a specific setting/time period or they like to add another genre with the history or they are looking for a specific type of character. Really you can combine anything with historical fiction and authors have and do. Lists like this remind us to stretch our minds and find some different options.

    So get up your displays of historical fiction, today, tomorrow, really anytime of the year. These lists aren't going anywhere. They will live online for you to access later. And, since historical fiction is such a broad and popular genre that isn't otherwise pulled out or stickered at libraries, your patrons will be happy you helped them to more easily find a good read bu pulling it out and in interesting combination that they would not have thought of themselves.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2019

    RA for All Virtual Roadshow Returns to Utah State Library

    As part of my two webinar series with the Utah State Library, I am presenting my RA Rethink: Merchandising and Upselling program this morning.

    This program focuses on the fact that all of the skills we already have and use for our most basic RA Service can also be used to increase staff and patron investment and involvement in your core services.

    This program offers many ideas and options that encourage you to rethink what you already know and do, to allow you to go from good to GREAT. I am providing the spark, but you can do it. I have faith in you. Plus, you know what will worth with your patrons better than anyone else.

    And, I have even updated it from when I gave this same presentation a week ago.

    So if you work in Utah, I'll "see" you soon or catch you in the recording. For the rest of you, here are the slides with live links.

    Click here for slide access 

    Monday, February 11, 2019

    Resource Reminder: Diversify Your RA

    I talk often here on the blog about the need to make sure your reading lists and displays are as diverse and inclusive as possible.

    But just as often, I get emails from library workers that they cannot seem to find enough own voices authors in genre fiction. Or if they can find some, they don't have enough because once they promote the few they have, they get checked out, and then they are left with no options once again [or at least until they can order some more].

    Enter my friends and MA librarians Anna and Alene whose presentation "Diversify Your RA" was first featured in Booklist this past fall. 

    One of the best things that came out of their presentation was their creation of this working list of diverse authors, sorted by genres [even nonfiction!].

    Although I talked about this new resource here on the blog previously, Anna recently reminded me that they are still regularly updating it. This resource did not stop for their presentation or even the Booklist feature. They are committed to keeping it going to help all of you have as few barriers as possible when ordering and suggesting titles by diverse authors.

    The key to this list is its genre focus. If you want to put up, for example, a historical fiction display, a quick click here and a simple scroll down, and you have almost 2 dozen recent titles that fit the bill.

    By no means do Anna and Alene claim that these lists are comprehensive; however, they are the perfect jumping off point to being more inclusive in your RA Service. And, if you click into the Booklist feature, you can also see links to the resources they used to make their list so that you can stay up to date for yourself.

    The moral here is, there is no excuse to have all white, male displays anymore. There are plenty of excellent options that reflect the true diversity of our everyday world in every genre. It just might mean you have to use a resource to find them. But good news, you work at a library so you are used to using resources to find answers to questions. And even better news, your patrons are used to waiting while you look things up.

    No more excuses aloud. It is time we all Diversify Our RA.

    [Ed note: A special thanks to Anna and Alene for sharing their work so that they can help more of you, and [Anna] for reminding me that it is still being updated.]

    Friday, February 8, 2019

    Book Discussion Tip: Middle Grade Books for Adult Book Clubs

    One of my favorite ideas for book clubs who are looking to re-energize and/or read something different is to try a Middle Grade novel.

    From a recent piece I wrote for Novelist:
    Great Middle Grade Reads for Adult Book GroupsMany adult book discussion group give YA titles a try, but today’s middle grade level is also a great resource for a book club that wants to try something different. This list of six recent titles are award winning, compelling, thought provoking, and fun to read. They will lead toward dynamic and issue driven discussions that will inspire, surprise and delight even the most high-brow groups.
    • Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book
    • Ryan, Pam Munoz. Echo
    • Reynolds, Jason. As Brave As You
    • Palacio, R.J. Wonder
    • Kelly, Erin Entrada.  Hello Universe
    • Applegate, Katherine.  Wishtree
    For the annotations on why each title works for adult book clubs you have to login to NoveList. But, for 2 of these titles, you don't need NoveList because I have detailed posts about leading these titles with a 5th and 6th grade book club-- As Brave As You and Echo.

    In those posts not only do I go through the discussions we had, but I also write about how I reacted to these books as an adult. Leading these discussions over 2 years made me realize that today's Middle Grade novels are actually better than YA ones for adult book clubs for some of the reasons I note above. But also, as I have heard and experienced from many of you, adult groups who try a YA novel tend to get hung up on how the book is too childish. Leaders report to me that they spend too much time talking about how they are too focused on the young protagonists' coming of age and "childish" attitudes. The groups want to harp on the immature writing style and how the book is not as complex as the adult literary titles they have read.

    Now of course you and I know the point of YA is to help teens find themselves in their books. They are supposed to be written to the teen reader, an emerging adult who is dealing with finding their place in our complex world.  However, as more adults are reading YA, they are trying to make it fit their life situations. But the problem ism they can't, not should they. Spending time debating this during the discussion is frustrating for leaders and participants.

    I have found that the solution is to move to Middle Grade. It helps that there are many complex and issue driven Middle Grades being produced now. Titles that are extremely discussable. But another benefit, that I didn't realize until I worked with an adult group on this shift, the book club members are more conscious of the fact that these books are NOT for them, and in fact, they are surprised how "well written" they are [even though they are more simplistic than the YA titles]. So instead of talking about the problems with book for them as a reader, they focus on the issues. Honestly, I never would have believed this or thought to move to Middle Grade if I hadn't seen it for myself.

    Further bonuses: they will be a quick read for your groups and almost always end "happily." With so many groups complaining that they read too many sad books, this is also a great recharging strategy.

    You can click on the titles above to pull up the specific discussion chains for each book [in reverse chronological order], or here for everything using the "5th/6th gr book club" tag. Why not give one of these books a try with your adult group?

    Thursday, February 7, 2019

    Call to Action: Stop Spreading the Fake News That Library Books Are Free

    Today I have a quick Call to Action, one that is very easy for all of you to start doing right now. It is a small language change, but it can make a huge difference for our entire profession. Here it is:
    You need to stop telling people that our services are free and instead say they are PRE-PAID.
    First, "free" is NOT accurate. People do not pay to check out the books and movies as they borrow them, but everyone does pay for the library and its services through their tax dollars. Yes, even renters pay because their rent pays for the taxes for the owner of the building.

    We are a profession which is all about accuracy, about combatting "fake news," and yet we perpetuate our own fake news by telling people our services are free.

    Reminding people that for example, they can take more than 1 book because they are free is NOT TRUE. They have paid for them, just earlier, as part of their taxes. We need to be more accurate on principle, yes but there is more to it.

    Second, when we aren't being honest about the cost of our services, when we dismiss them as "free," we lull our patrons into a false sense that these services will always be there no matter what. If they forget that they have paid for these services as taxes, when the talk of tax freezes or tax cuts comes around, it will be much easier for the public to argue for cutting the library's tax line because they forget that they pay for it. All that "free" talk means they aren't reminded about the actual cost.

    We need to be advocates for the good feels that the library gives people and equate that as a cost benefit. I live in a high tax area. I get it. But when my friends and neighbors complain about their taxes, I remind them what a great deal they are getting through the library [and the schools]. I tell people to think what it would actually cost them to check out those materials, stream those shows, buy audio books, go to great programs, etc.... Now look at your library tax line. It is a steal.

    We have to talk about the money openly, honestly, and accurately or we will loose the financial support we need to survive.

    Third, and this one is just human nature, people don't value things that are free as much as they value things they pay for. Reminding people, frequently, that they have pre-paid for the library and all of its services, elevates the value of the institution.

    Every time you remind patrons that the services and items they are so please with are PRE-PAID you are advocating for your public library, actually for every public library. You are advocating for the institution itself. You are advocating for equal service to all, everywhere, all of the time.

    But every time you tell people the service is free, you are undermining everything. I know you think you are trying to help by letting people know there is no charge at the time of service, but there is a charge. We have budgets, budgets that are shrinking. We do a lot with very little already, any less and we will disappear. People need to know that. They need to realize that their tax dollars are key to our survival.

    So please, consider using PRE-PAID when you talk about user costs of our services. And remind them often so that if a time comes when people in your town start talking about budget cuts, they won't even consider the library's tax line. Why? Because that line is one they respect, one they use, one they know has monetary value, one that isn't free, one that requires dollars to survive. And it is our responsibility to stop the fake news of free and accurately proclaim...PRE-PAID!

    For past Call to Action posts, click here

    Wednesday, February 6, 2019

    More Podcast RA Resource Links

    Libraries are jumping on the fact that their patrons love podcasts and are trying to incorporate RA service to podcasts listeners. This gets tricky because the library is not the provider of podcasting content in any way. This has led to some libraries not wanting to work on a service which doesn't have anything to do with their bottom line [circulation stats].

    However, as I mentioned in this post back in 2017, we need to stop making excuses and start doing podcast RA. Why? Because as podcasts keep gaining in popularity, it is becoming much easier to move people from their favorite podcast into an audiobook.

    Lists have begun popping up that create audiobook listen-alike lists for favorite podcasts. And with podcasts that featuring fiction [especially genre fiction] and narrative nonfiction, there are audiobook suggestions for all kinds of readers.

    For example, here is an article from Library Journal which  discusses the trend and provides a detailed listen-alike list for a handful of popular podcasts on a wide variety of topics. I really like the list for its breadth.

    Also, the Chicago Public Library has  2 "podcast pairings" listen-alike posts which you can access here.

    And some libraries have just embraced podcasts and use their popularity to draw patrons to their resources in general like Toledo Lucas County [OH] Public Library.

    Now these are all more traditional RA services, providing "alike" options to readers, watchers, listeners, etc.... to remind them that they can extend their enjoyment beyond 1 specific item with many more through the library.

    However, there are other ways we can engage podcast listeners and I am starting to see Book Riot catch on with the articles they are posting using the tag #PODCASTS. Here are some recent examples that I LOVE:

    These lists provide more than an "alike," they use podcasts to help with your overall reading life.

    I think we can learn from this "next level" of service being modeled by Book Riot. These pieces provide a bridge between podcast listening on a non-library platform and increased consumption of leisure reading and listening materials that you can get through the library. It is responsive to our patrons in a different way than our reflexive "alike" lists.

    Don't get me wrong, I LOVE making read and listen alike lists. They are an invaluable part of our service to our leisure reading patrons. But, it is not the be all and end all of what we can do.

    Let's think outside the shelf a bit more, especially when working with podcast listeners since it is already an untraditional model.

    Start by using the Book Riot lists to make displays and pass on to your patrons via social media. Then think about how you will bridge the gap between your podcast devouring patrons and your library holdings. The possibilities are infinite [because the number of podcasts are close to that].